Rosedale High seniors Sadie and McKayla do everything together. Cheer squad, prom committee, blogging on Tumblr. Oh, and killing people. That’s, like, the number one thing they’re good at.
Making its debut at SXSW in Austin this week, Tragedy Girls is a teen horror-comedy for the like-and-subscribe era. Focused on two girls who want to go down in history as legendary serial killers—and earn huge social media followings while doing it—director Tyler MacIntyre’s film totally inverts the idea of the Final Girl. Tragedy Girls turns the young women who’d usually be screaming psycho-killer targets into the actual slaughterers and has loads of fun doing it. In fact, the film opens with McKayla (Alexandra Shipp) being chased by a masked murderer, screaming in fear as certain death looms. But the would-be killer gets conked on the head by BFF Sadie (Brianna Hildebrand) and the two friends proceed to hold him hostage in a remote location.
They talk shit as they smack him around—“why you being such a little bitch about this?”, “do you want to cry for help?”—but soon reveal the true reason for capturing him. McKayla and Sadie are big fans of Lowell’s work and want to get tips from him on becoming infamous. As the movie’s plot develops, we see that the girls are perfect daughters who just happen to also be peppy sadists. The pair have created a Tragedy Girls social media brand which obsessively details the killings in Rosedale, which no one knows are their own handiwork. But when things start slowing down, they concoct an ambitious plan that will leave a huge swath of destruction in their wake.
Tragedy Girls shows off its genre smarts in a few different ways. After capturing Lowell, the girls rattle off a quick taxonomy of killers, explaining the difference between spree and serial. The film likewise uses character types from slasher films and high school melodramas in subversive ways, as with the mean-girl archenemy who’s a performatively “woke” rival cheerleader who wants to cancel prom after an emo-biker hunk winds up dead. Like all good coming-of-age stories, the girls have to reckon with jealousy, romantic yearning, and external forces that threaten to pull them apart but they do so in a way that features hilariously inventive murders that spray blood all over the screen. The girls’ focus on styling, branding, and shameless self-promotion provides a hilarious through line for the movie. When Sadie goes to the town sheriff because she’s being stalked by another killer, he tells her to stop checking in her location on social media. Her response? “I’d rather die.”
MacIntyre’s made a wry, sharp movie that finds fresh subversive energy out of the fusion of two genres. Tragedy Girls is as much Friday the 13th as it is Heathers and, if we’re lucky, it’s the start of a franchise that will slashing up the screen well into the future.